Answers to Your Questions About Toxic Free Living

Are Flannel Sheets Free of Hazardous Chemicals?

Question from Steve

Hi Debra,

I came across some of you posts and writings as I was searching for bedsheets. I would like to know if all flannel sheets are free from hazardous chemicals. Is it safe to buy flannel sheets that are not organic? Must they state that they are free from chemicals on packaging or are all flannel sheets safe because/if they are not treated to be wrinkle free, easy care, etc? I greatly appreciate your advice.



Debra’s Answer

All flannel sheets are “safe” in the sense that they

  • have no harmful finishes (they are naturally wrinkle-free because of the weave”)
  • pesticides are removed as a by-product of processing in raw cotton into fabric
  • dyes are “color-fast,” which means they stay in the fabric

Organic flannel sheets would be even better, though the benefit is more environmental.

I myself sleep on non-organic flannel sheets and have for years.

The only problem I’ve ever had is sometimes they use plastic printing for certain designs. Otherwise, a quick tumble in the washer and dryer and I’m always happy with them.


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Latex Wood Slat Bedframe Strips—10 Years Later

Today Larry is working on removing the latex strips that we glued to the slats on our wood bed frame about ten years ago.

It sounded like a good idea at the time: latex strips just on the slats, which would give extra cushioning and still allow the natural wool mattress to breathe. I don’t like the odor of latex, so I didn’t want a whole mattress.

I did have to endure the outgassing of the latex for some weeks, but then it was tolerable and comfortable.

But about a year or two ago I started noticing a lot of dust and bits of latex under the bed. The latex was disintegrating!

This has gotten to be such a problem that Larry has taken the entire bed apart this morning and is pulling the latex strips off the slats. It is creating so much dust he had to bring in the shop vac because our little household Miele couldn’t handle the amount of dust that is being created.

I don’t know if this is a problem for pillows and mattresses, but it is a problem for our two-inch square strips. They just dried out. Maybe they were dehydrated by six months of air conditioning. I don’t know. I just know that it became such a mess we had to remove them.


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Watch the Movie STINK! Free for the Month of OCTOBER


STINK! opens with a foul smell and a pair of kids pajamas. And a single father trying to find out what that smell could possibly be. But instead of getting a straight answer, director Jon Whelan stumbles on an even bigger issue in America, which is that some products on our store shelves are not safe — by design.

Stink! tells us about our exposures to toxic chemicals from consumer products and lack of regulations through the eyes of a father who has lost his wife to cancer. He buys pajamas for Christmas presents for his two tween daughters and is appalled by the overwhelming odor.

Stink! takes us through his journey to find out what’s in the pajamas that causes the odor, shows the world of undisclosed “fragrance” chemicals, and even includes a a teenage boy who cannot attend high school because he goes into anaphylactic shock when he breathes a certain body spray used by many of his classmates.

There’s a lot of good information about toxics in this film that shows the problem. It’s well worth watching and a good movie to show others, so they can get an idea of the problem.

[Just as an aside I want to say that this film is full of interviews with people who are working to change the chemical industry and lack of regulation. One of them shown over and over is Jeffrey Hollander, founder of Seventh Generation, who just sold Seventh Generation to Unilever, manufacturer of the product that won’t disclose the chemicals in the body spray product that sends the teenage boy into life-threatening anaphylactic shock. This is the company that is now manufacturing the Seventh Generation brand.]

At the end of the film, the solution presented is

  •  manufacturers need to disclose their ingredients and

  •  there needs to be better regulation. And the closing scene is his daughter calling an online business that is offering “flame-proof” pajamas, asking them if the pajamas contain flame retardants.

What this movie is missing is any mention at all that there ARE toxic-free products available.

A big message of this movie is that we can’t make decisions as consumers unless the big corporations disclose the ingredients of their toxic products. Well, I would like to see that happen too, however, it’s not a prerequisite for us to determine the products are toxic or for us to have the power to identify, find, choose and purchase toxic-free products.

My concern about the film is that it leaves the viewer with the idea that the world is 100% toxic, and there are no safe alternatives. That may be the filmmaker’s world, but I know that’s not true.

So if you see this film and share it, tell everyone to come to my website after to find out how to live toxic free.

Watch STINK! Free for the Month of October


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Project TENDR Takes on Risks of Neurotoxins

Project TENDR is a collaboration of leading scientists, health professionals and children’s and environmental advocates who came together in 2015 out of concern over the now substantial scientific evidence linking toxic environmental chemicals to neurodevelopment disorders.

These disorders include autism spectrum disorder, attention deficits, hyperactivity, intellectual disability and learning disorders.

In July, Project TENDR is releasing a scientific Consensus Statement as a national Call To Action to significantly reduce exposures to chemicals and pollutants that are contributing to neurodevelopmental disorders in America’s children.

The “prime examples” of neurotoxic chemicals listed in the Statement are

• Organophosphate (OP) pesticides

• PBDE flame retardants

• Combustion-related air pollutants, which generally include PAHs, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, and other air pollutants for which nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter are markers

• Lead

• Mercury

• PCBs

Check their Chemicals & Pollutants tab on the main menu for more information about how these chemicals can affect children’s development.

TENDR Consensus Statement


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How to find Mint-Free Toothpaste

Question from Rose

Hi Debra,

Can you recommend a toothpaste without mint, which is similar to Sensodyne in being: less abrasive/easy on sensitive teeth/ and generally helpful in preventing erosion?

I like Tom’s toothpaste, but the dental tech recommended Sensodyne.

I am allergic to processed Mint, alas.

I checked out Merz Apothecary here in Chicago, but all of the tooth pastes have mint.

Thank you.




Debra’s Answer

There are actually a number of toothpastes that don’t contain mint. They either have no flavoring, or flavors such as lemon or anise or simply the flavors of active ingredients.

See the Dental Care page of Debra’s List.

Readers, what mint-free toothpastes do you like?

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Are Menstrual Cups Safe To Use?

Question from Leslie

Hi Debra,

Have you seen the study that claims the Diva Cup menstrual cup can cause endometriosis? I want to use one but obviously after reading that study I’m very conflicted. It claims that since the blood is not absorbed it can funnel back up to the ovaries and cling to them. If I understood correctly.

This is the report I read.



Debra’s Answer

The study you read is ten years old.

There is more recent information.

Menstrual Cups and Endometriosis gives a good review of the dilemma. Basically, there is no longer a concern that menstrual cups are a cause of endometriosis. This website lists all the companies that now make menstrual cups, but they also have resources for cloth pads and organic pads and tampons. So it’s basically a good site for considering all your natural options.

The Endometriosis Foundation has no obvious warnings about not using menstrual cups that I could find on their website.

Menstrual cups are made from either rubber or medical-grade silicone. Both these materials are unlikely to cause harm for this use.

So if you want to use a menstrual cup, I see no reason not to.

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Is Your Tap Water Tainted With Carcinogenic Chromium-6?

Carcinogenic Chromium-6Environmental Working Group (EWG) released another report last week on our exposures to toxic chemicals in everyday life.

If you remember the true-story movie Erin Brockovich from 2000, chromium-6 was the chemical discovered to cause numerous cancer cases in the town of Hinkley, California. Now EWG has tested samples of tap water across the nation and found this same chromium-6 in 75% of water supplies in America.

According to EWG, “In 2008, a two-year study by the National Toxicology Program found that drinking water with chromium-6, or hexavalent chromium, caused cancer in laboratory rats and mice. Based on this and other animal studies, in 2010, scientists at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment concluded that ingestion of tiny amounts of chromium-6 can cause cancer in people, a conclusion affirmed by state scientists in New Jersey and North Carolina.”

In 2010, an EWG investigation found chromium-6 in the tap water of 31 cities. This prompted the EPA to order local water utilities to begin the first nationwide tests. From 2013-2015 more than 60,000 samples of drinking water were taken. EWG’s analysis of the test data estimates that water supplies serving 218 million Americans – more than two-thirds of the population – contain more chromium-6 than the California scientists deemed safe.

EWG: ‘Erin Brockovich’ Carcinogen in Tap Water of More Than 200 Million Americans

EWG: ‘Erin Brockovich’ Carcinogen in Tap Water of More Than 200 Million Americans – The Study

Are You One of the 218 million?

EWG has provided an interactive map of the USA,where you can click on the county you live in and find out if you have chromium-6 in your water.

Tap Water Tainted With Carcinogenic Chromium-6

I checked Pinellas County, Florida—where I live—and found that chromium-6 was detected in 87% of samples tested.The range was from “none detected” to 0.620 parts per billion (ppb). The California Public Health Goal is 0.02 ppb.

What to Do

So, OK, I have my local numbers from the interactive map, but, is the water from MY tap “none detected” or 0.620 pub or somewhere in between?

pureeffectsfiltersSince I have a PureEffect Water Filter, I asked founder Igor Milevskiy if I needed to be concerned about chromium-6 in my water.

Igor said, “Due to varying water chemistry from place to place, and the heightened concern for Cr6 across a wide span of water supplies, we highly recommend to test your specific water at home with inexpensive and very simple to use test strips. This way you will know for yourself how much Chromium (if any) is in your water and how well the filter is performing on this contaminant.”

He recommends Waterworks Chromium test strips.

PureEffect water filters contains the type of filter media that removes chromium. “Our 3 and 4 chamber systems have 3 different types of metal removal media, which also target Chromium. The principles of the media are such, that they should have a good effect on reducing this contaminant.”

Again, test strips.

Igor said, “In the event it becomes necessary to provide even greater Cr6 removal power, if your readers let us know their test results, we can make a custom cartridge for those with extra stubborn situations.”

Seeing this report again reinforces for me the need for every home to have an effective water filter system that removes a broad spectrum of pollutants. You never know what might be in your water.


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Safe Hair Dye

Question from Linda

Hi Debra,

Could you tell me some brands of hair dyes that are less toxic?

Debra’s Answer

Way back in the 1980’s when I first started looking at toxics in products, hair dye was pretty toxic. There were few safe alternatives.

But times have changed and there are a lot of new “natural” hair dyes available now.

Because you asked, I took a look at them.

Big Brand “Natural” Hair Dyes

If you type “natural hair dye” into a search engine you’ll get some results like Clairol “Natural Instincts” which are not natural at all. But it is ammonia-free.

Ammonia used to be the major problem chemical in hair dye, but how you can just type “ammonia-free hair dye” into a search engine and you will find plenty. Here’s a whole list at

But while most of the major brands—like Clairol—now have ammonia-free perms, they are still made primarily from petrochemical ingredients, including synthetic fragrance.

Good Housekeeping did a whole article on Finding Safe Organic Hair Dye Products Rather than repeat everything they said about the dangers of hair dye, I suggest you read their article.

Natural Hair Dyes That Are Really Natural

But there are some hair dyes that are actually made of natural ingredients, sold online and at most natural food stores. Here are some brands I was able to find easily. I’ve included the manufacturer’s website as well as amazon links because some of the manufacturers are in Europe and amazon often has the best prices.

Organic Ingredients

Organic Color Systems— made with certified organic ingredients
Organic Color Systems at

Natural Ingredients

Logona Herbal Hair Color—100% natural, botanical colorants
Logona at

Naturtint Plant-Based Permanent Hair Color—all natural 
Naturetint at

Palette By Nature—all natural,
(not available

Aubrey Organics Color Me Natural—100% natural,
Color Me Natural at

Herbatint—the original ammonia-free color,
with vegetal extracts Herbaltint


Rainbow HennaRainbow Henna at

Morrocco Method Simply Pure Henna—(not available on

Hair Dye That Restores Your Hair’s Natural Color

To me, the most interesting hair dye is HairPrint. It’s a hair color that restores gray hair to it’s natural color, rather than stripping color and then applying an artificial coal-tar dye. It’s odor-free, hypoallergenic, and you can eat it too! All ingredients are disclosed and explained. Their patented formula takes natural ingredients and creates eumelanin, the pigment that colors all brown and black hair. While you cannot choose your color, you will have a color that your hair has chosen in response to the eumelanin, and each strond will be it’s own natural shade. This treatment also strengthens the hair and adds luster and shine. There is a special formula to be used to prevent hair from turning grey as well. My hair isn’t turning grey (yet), but when I does, it I decide to dye my hair, this is what I would choose.


If you want to use some natural materials that will create nature hues in your hair, you might want to try using plants that you already have in your kitchen. Like coffee, tea, herbs, juices, and the like.

It’s easy to find instructions for using these online.

WELLNESS MAMA: All-Natural Herbal Hair Color Recipes

ANNEMARIE: Ditch the Chemicals—7 Ways to Color Your Hair Naturally

RODALE’S ORGANIC LIFE: 6 Natural Ways to Dye Your Hair Without Chemicals


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Seventh Generation Sells Out to Unilever

Well, the world is changing.

Pioneering green products company Seventh Generation was just purchased by Unilever for $700 million.

Unilever is one of the top ten corporations that control almost everything that is sold in the mass market.

It was actually an emotional shock for me to get this news

I remember when Seventh Generation was started in 1988. It was just before Earth Day 1990 and the book 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, which brought awareness to the mass market that what we do in our homes every day has an effect on the environment—for better or for worse.

Seventh Generation really was the first company to develop products with health and environment being the guiding star. And they did Read more about Seventh Generation…

For Seventh Generation to sell to Unilever…it’s the end of an era. Seventh Generation was an innovator, they were visionaries who changed the marketplace. And now decisions will be made based on mass market values instead of life values.

All I can say is thank goodness for all of the small businesses that are independently producing toxic free products. Please support them.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Unilever Buys ‘Green’ Products Maker Seventh Generation


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